‘Astonishing’ handball decisions – what happened & do you agree?

Fulham claimed Gianluca Scamacca’s goal for West Ham should have been ruled out for handball – but the goal was given after a VAR check

VAR was once again a talking point this weekend with a number of debatable decisions surrounding the handball rule.

The Match of the Day 2 team described some of them as “astonishing”, with seemingly similar incidents resulting in differing outcomes.

However did the officials get the calls right?

Here is what happened – and you can vote on whether you think the referees made the right call.

What is the handball rule?

Let’s start with the rules. When deciding a handball decision referees have three key considerations:

  • Whether it is a “deliberate action” by the player – ie have they moved their arm towards the ball;
  • If the hand or arm is in “a natural position”, – ie away from the body;
  • The proximity of the player from the ball and the speed it hits them on the arm/hand.

For accidental handball in the build-up to a goal:

  • If one player accidentally handles the ball and a team-mate scores, the goal is given;
  • However, if a player accidentally handles the ball themselves and goes on to score, the goal will not stand.

BBC Sport football reporter Simon Stone said: “The reality is, most of these calls involve a degree of subjectivity at some stage and that can lead to differences of opinion where there is no clear right or wrong answer.”

“However, there are also rules laid down by the game’s authority IFAB, which need to be adhered to.”

Gabriel and Dan Burn

Handball incidents involving Dan Burn and Gabriel
Liverpool were not awarded a penalty for the incident on the left, whereas Brentford were awarded one for the incident on the right

Newcastle’s Dan Burn concedes a penalty when he blocks Aaron Hickey’s header with his arm from close range. Arsenal defender Gabriel is involved in a similar incident 24 hours later when he blocks Diogo Jota’s cross, but no penalty is given after a VAR check.

MOTD2 presenter Mark Chapman: The PGMOL say for handball it is all about “proximity and speed”.

Danny Murphy: “That’s what is making fans angry. How can one be given and Liverpool’s not be given? And that’s a fair argument. We are all after consistency. How can they be two different decisions?”

Simon Stone: “Newcastle’s Dan Burn conceded a penalty because his arm was clearly above his head and making his body bigger. By contrast, Arsenal defender Gabriel did not have his arm away from his body when the ball struck it, from there it becomes a subjective view for on-field referee Michael Oliver.”

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford's handball against Everton
Marcus Rashford’s goal would have made it 3-1 to Manchester United, although they still held on for a 2-1 victory

Marcus Rashford’s goal against Everton is disallowed following a VAR check as the ball struck the Manchester United striker’s arm as he blocked James Tarkowski’s clearance in the build-up.

MOTD 2 commentator Guy Mowbray: “There was nothing Marcus Rashford could do about that, it’s entirely accidental. But if the player who scores, scores after the ball has touched any part of his arm then it is not going to stand.”

Gianluca Scamacca

Gianluca Scamacca's goal for West Ham
Gianluca Scamacca’s goal put West Ham 2-1 up after a VAR check

Gianluca Scamacca’s goal for West Ham against Fulham is checked by VAR for a possible handball by the Hammers striker, but the goal is given.

Chapman: “There were some quite astonishing decisions in this game. We have been advised that the reason this was given was because there was not conclusive proof that the ball had touched Scamacca’s hand.

Dion Dublin: “If you look at the replay you can see the revolution of the ball has changed. We are talking just the slightest of touches. He knows it’s touched his hand and is thinking ‘I’ve got away with one here’.”

Simon Stone: “With Scamacca’s goal, VAR Michael Salisbury would have needed to be 100% certain the Italian handled in order to rule the goal out. It can only be assumed the incident did not meet the threshold.”

Michael Antonio

Michail Antonio handball decision
Replays clearly show Michail Antonio handling the ball in the build-up to his goal that made it 3-1 to West Ham

Later in the same game, West Ham’s Michail Antonio blocks a clearance with his hand before scoring past Bernd Leno at the second attempt.

Chapman: “We are told that the goal is given because of him [Antonio] still had work to do – it becomes a second phase when he hits it into Leno and Fulham have the chance to clear.”

Dublin: “It’s a goal isn’t it? They’ve scored. They’ve directly benefited from the handball?”

Simon Stone: “So, VAR ruled the ball hits Marcus Rashford’s arm at Goodison Park, then he runs through to score. Effectively, that handball leads directly to a goal, which is not allowed, so it was ruled out. VAR.

“By contrast, whilst Antonio handles the ball against Fulham, this was not ruled as being deliberate by the referee. Antonio then has a shot, which is blocked, Fulham have a chance to clear, don’t, then Antonio rounds the keeper to score. The view is that the handball didn’t lead directly to a goal as the game went through further moments – including Fulham’s defense having a chance to sort the situation out – before the ball ends up in the net.”

Did the officials get the penalty decisions right?

A big screen at Goodison Park showing that Marcus Rashford's goal had been disallowed
Despite the disallowed goal Manchester United still won the game 2-1

Murphy: “They have unintentional, minuscule touches of the hand. Maybe you could argue Antonio’s is more than that, but the other two. I don’t I think we want to see goals being ruled out for that.

“But if we go by the letter of the law they should all be disallowed.”

Dublin: “It’s the same [offence]. They are all basically the same thing, the same kind of handball.”

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